Alex de Angelis
The MotoGP silly season is just about played out. With four races left in the season, the rider line up for 2010 is almost complete. As expected, once Jorge Lorenzo finally made up his mind, the remaining pieces in the puzzle fell into place, leaving just a few gaps to fill.
All of the factory seats are now full, and largely unchanged, with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo back at Yamaha, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden at Ducati, Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa (albeit reluctantly) re-signed with Repsol Honda, and Loris Capirossi joined at Suzuki by the only newcomer to the factory line up, Spanish rookie Alvaro Bautista. Though next year's seats are settled, plenty of excitement still remains over what will happen next year: Everyone but Andrea Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista is on a one year contract, which means that the Fantastic Four will all be on the market at the same time next year and looking to move, almost certainly precipitating a bidding war and making a mockery of all the cost-cutting measures already put in place.
Of the satellite teams, only the Gresini and LCR squads are completely set. Fausto Gresini got his Italian Dream Team with the two Marcos, Melandri and Simoncelli, and helping him extend the team's sponsorship contract with snack manufacturer San Carlo, while Lucio Cecchinello has re-upped with Randy de Puniet. But even among the remaining teams, the seats are largely taken. Mika Kallio is back with Pramac, and Colin Edwards returns to the Monster Tech 3 team, though reportedly taking a half million dollar pay cut for the privilege. No official word as yet from Team Scot, but as Gabor Talmacsi is the only person likely to be bringing significant funds into the team, the Hungarian must be a safe bet for that seat.
As in MotoGP, so in World Superbikes. In both series, the Japanese manufacturer is suffering an embarrassment of riches when it comes to riders, and with the MotoGP factory squad complete, Yamaha Motor Italia, who run the World Superbike squad, are considering their options for 2010. Their problem depends in part on Ben Spies, and whether he stays in World Superbikes or goes to MotoGP with the Tech 3 satellite squad, but even without Spies, the WSBK team has decisions to ponder.
With a glut of outstanding riders on the market, Yamaha's WSBK boss Massimo Meregalli has put out feelers to Alex de Angelis, to test his interest in switching to the World Superbike series. Meregalli told GPOne.com that he had spoken to De Angelis about joining the Superbike squad in 2010. "I spoke with Alex to check his availability," Meregalli said. "Nothing has been decided at the moment, but it's clear that the riders in MotoGP want to stay there, and the market is finished there yet. But De Angelis is an interesting rider."
De Angelis isn't Yamaha's only option, however. Current World Supersport leader and revelation of the series Cal Crutchlow is also considered to be a serious candidate for Yamaha's World Superbike team. The young Briton has a two-year deal with Yamaha, which includes a clause offering him a World Superbike ride if he wins the World Supersport title, as he looks set to do this season. If Spies does decide - and is permitted - to go to MotoGP, then Meregalli's decision-making process will be made a good deal easier, and both De Angelis and Crutchlow could end up on board a Yamaha R1 in 2010.
With the future of Ben Spies now apparently settled - though the English-language journalists continue to debate the exact meaning of the word "foresee", and whether it allows for Spies to move to MotoGP earlier than 2011 - half the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team seems to be settled, as Colin Edwards looks certain to keep his seat in the team, especially given the outstanding results he has posted this season. The fate of James Toseland, however, looks a good deal less certain, with team boss Herve Poncharal stopping short of expressing outright criticism of the British rider, but pointing out that Toseland's results have been disappointing, both for Toseland himself and for the team. It is widely accepted that Toseland is likely to remain in MotoGP - the BBC's multi-year multi-million dollar deal with series organizer Dorna would seem to demand that a British rider be in the series - but that does not mean that JT needs to stay at Tech 3.
Indeed, it seems as if that battle has already been fought, and Toseland has lost. The usually well-informed Spanish website Motocuatro.com is reporting that not Toseland, but Alex de Angelis will be riding for Monster Tech 3 Yamaha next year. The deal would be for a single season, with Yamaha taking a look at both Edwards and De Angelis at the end of 2010, to decide who will make way for Ben Spies. De Angelis' run of excellent results since the Sachsenring are believed to have persuaded Yamaha to have given the man from San Marino a second chance to prove himself, and given the proven nature of the satellite Yamaha M1, that should be a challenge De Angelis is up to.
Yesterday, Dorna released a list of engines presented to MotoGP's Technical Director Mike Webb to be officially sealed. The seals are placed to comply with the engine limit which comes into effect at Brno, which stipulates that each rider is only allowed to use 5 engines until the end of the season. The teams only needed to submit 1, or at most 2 engines to be sealed before practice started, but instead most submitted 3 or even more. That demands some kind of explanation, and so we decided to take a closer look at the numbers.
Here's the full list:
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda Team||3|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Repsol Honda Team||3|
|5||Colin Edwards||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||3|
|7||Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||2|
|14||Randy de Puniet||LCR Honda MotoGP||3|
|15||Alex de Angelis||San Carlo Honda Gresini||3|
|24||Toni Elias||San Carlo Honda Gresini||2|
|27||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro Team||4|
|33||Marco Melandri||Hayate Racing Team||3|
|36||Mika Kallio||Pramac Racing||3|
|41||Gabor Talmacsi||Scot Racing Team MotoGP||2|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha Team||3|
|52||James Toseland||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||3|
|65||Loris Capirossi||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||2|
|69||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Marlboro Team||4|
|88||Niccolo Canepa||Pramac Racing||3|
|99||Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha Team||3|
* There are also 2 spare Suzuki engines not yet assigned to a rider
The first thing to note is that Casey Stoner's absence generates a small complication. Casey Stoner has had 4 engines sealed, and Mika Kallio has had 3 engines sealed. But Kallio is riding the factory Marlboro Ducati bike this weekend, so whose engines is he using?
In the final chapter of our summer break round up of the MotoGP season, we turn towards the unknown. After our discussions of the things we know for sure, and the things which are extremely probable, we stray from the path of solid research, head down the trail of the likely, making a left turn into the tangled brush and undergrowth of the possible and onwards to wishful thinking and the frankly bizarre. Once past the certain and the obvious, the options become more open, more varied and more improbable. Whereas you could have safely placed a small wager on the rider movements discussed yesterday, the options presented below are a pretty good way of losing your money.
We shall start our journey with the most likely scenarios, and descend into the unknown from there. Of the riders we have not yet discussed, Randy de Puniet has the best chance of securing a decent ride for next year. Since his switch to the spec Bridgestone tires, the Frenchman has been transformed from the man most likely to crash to a podium hero at Donington, and his stock has risen enormously.
De Puniet is currently in negotiations with his current team boss Lucio Cecchinello about signing for LCR Honda again for next year, but the Frenchman's main demand is not money but equipment. De Puniet wants a more competitive bike, and though Cecchinello would dearly like to oblige, that depends both on the team's ability to raise the necessary funds and HRC's willingness to supply a better bike.
And so de Puniet is also talking to - who else? - Tech 3's Herve Poncharal. At Tech 3 the Frenchman would be assured of excellent support and his best shot at more regular podium appearances. The only point of contention would be money, and unless de Puniet can bring extra sponsorship dollars to the Tech 3 team, his salary demands would have to remain modest.
There's only so many compact flash cards that a photographer can carry, and the number of photos they can process is even fewer. So for now, here are the last of Scott Jones' Fab Photos frmm Germany
If you enjoyed the previous instalments of photos from the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, you'll love the final collection from Scott Jones. If you want more after that, you'll have to wait until Donington, like the rest of us.
Yet more photos from Scott Jones, this time of the rain-soaked qualifying session. The conditions may have been horrific, but this did not deter either our intrepid photographer or the subjects he was shooting.
The first batch of images are in from Scott Jones, here at the Sachsenring, and once again, they are real gems. There'll be plenty more to come over the next few days.
There's a host of talented rookies scratching at the gate of the MotoGP paddock, and the veterans are getting nervous. Ben Spies, Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista are all tipped to enter MotoGP next year, and with the number of available seats unlikely to increase much above the existing 18 (or 19, depending on how you count), the series' current crop of underperformers are looking around for fallback positions.
Right now, their prospects look brightest in the World Superbike paddock, and so the WSBK paddock will be welcoming a couple of extra guests this weekend, in the form of Carlo Pernat and Roger Burnett. Not names the casual fan may be all too familiar with, but key players in MotoGP nonetheless. Pernat manages a large stable of top Italian talent, including Loris Capirossi, Marco Simoncelli, Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, while Burnett is the personal manager of British rider James Toseland. While Capirossi looks relatively safe at Suzuki, and Simoncelli is a dead cert to move up to MotoGP, the prospects of Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa are far from certain, and Toseland has come in for a barrage of criticism after his dismal start to the season.
Testing has started in the first of the extremely restricted test programs, the amount of testing having been slashed for cost-cutting purposes over the winter. Dani Pedrosa is sitting out the test, preferring to rest in the hope that his injured femur will recover in time for Assen, while the Tech 3 team are also absent.
Andrea Dovizioso is testing the new chassis for HRC, while Ducati is testing a new rear shock, the carbon fiber swingarm and some electronics updates, as well as a revised tail section which lifts the seat higher.
Yamaha has little to test, and so Jorge Lorenzo is mainly working on refining setup. According to MCN, Valentino Rossi is due test a revised version of the M1 engine, designed to last for two races, ready for the new regulations which come into effect after Brno. From then, the riders will have 5 engines to last 7 races, and Yamaha need to ensure that the new engine has not sacrificed performance for durability. As of 1pm, Rossi had yet to take to the track, though. Rossi is notorious for his hatred of early mornings, and will probably wait until the afternoon to make an appearance.
Update - Valentino Rossi took to the track during the afternoon session, run between 2pm and 6pm, but is without Jerry Burgess, who is headed back to Australia for the funeral of his mother, who died on Saturday. One incident of note was the consequences of a crash by Pramac Ducati's Niccolo Canepa: The Italian had crashed going very slowly (about 40 km/h, according to GPONe.com) while testing the carbon fiber swingarm. As a result of that crash, the swingarm cracked, underlining the risks of using CF as a structural material. However, both Canepa and Kallio were about half a second quicker with the new CF swingarm than they were on the aluminium one yesterday, so its benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Final times (courtesy of GPOne.com)
Qualifying for Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix took place in intense heat, making the conditions difficult for both riders and bikes. The riders were thankful that this was the first outing for Bridgestone's asymmetric dual compound tires, for the combination of very high track temperatures and the Barcelona track's endless right handers made a very hard compound necessary on the right-hand side of the tire, but a relatively softer compound on the left-hand side.
The heat meant that the early running was made by the riders on the hardest of the tires available, the extra-hard rear and the hard front, the compounds the teams are almost certain to be using in the race tomorrow. It was Jorge Lorenzo who took practice for the race to the greatest extreme, the Spaniard starting out the session with a monster run of 17 laps, over two thirds of race distance.
It wasn't just a long run, however, Lorenzo also demonstrated he was on race pace, taking the top spot after just a couple of laps, briefly ceding it to Andrea Dovizioso, then snatching it back, the first rider to lap under 1'43, with a time of 1'42.990. A lap later, Lorenzo took another two tenths off his time, setting out a marker of where race pace will be, and following it up with a long string of laps in the high 1'42s and low 1'43s.
The only person capable of following was Lorenzo's Fiat Yamaha team mate, Valentino Rossi. Rossi too ran low 1'43s, taking a provisional 2nd place on the grid with a quarter of the session gone. The other candidates for victory tomorrow were all running mid-1'43s, a couple of tenths off Rossi's pace.